In my “new” bedroom, there’s a window the size of a Francisco Goya painting with a northward view of some shade trees, desert willows, and a six-lane road that spans the length of northern Phoenix. The window itself is nice because it opens easily and is never hit by direct sunlight—in the autumn and winter months, it lets in cool, fresh air in the evening, easing the sometimes-fitful transition to sleep. Traffic, however, can be quite noisy and bothersome, particularly during rush hours, and especially with the immoderate amount of motorcyclists and muffler-less car enthusiasts. Negative aspects aside, I like the window. Just as I like Goya’s painting, The Second of May 1808, despite its dismal tone.
At my “new” daytime profession, I stand behind a counter and move items, mostly produce, from one hand to the other and ensure there’s an audible beep and that numbers on a screen match corresponding numbers on a sign I haven’t seen. (For those of you outside the realm of retail, this is the magic of POS technology, which can either stand for “point of sale” or “piece of shit” depending on the day.) Sometimes there’s no beep, sometimes the numbers don’t match. Every time I ask, “How are you? Find everything okay today? Would you prefer paper or plastic?” When I answer the phone, whether I’m at work or at home, I must sometimes stop myself from uttering one of my go-to customer service phrases.
These things—the window, my job—are “new” because I have been in Arizona for only 11 months, or about 3.5 percent of my life. It simultaneously feels like an incredible amount of time and no time at all; I wonder if perception of time changes not only with age and maturity but location as well. When you’ve spent your whole life operating in EST and suddenly you’re two or three hours behind friends, family, the market, etc., it can be jarring.
Despite all our trouble coming out here, Andrew, Caitlin, and I have all found work, secured mostly-functional vehicles, and are doing well. I miss those EST friends, family, and familiar Indy skyline, but I love Arizona’s saguaros, sunshine, and now that it’s July, monsoons. We’ve hiked and explored much of what the community has to offer but every day is a new opportunity to learn more and discover.
What’s left is open and ever-changing as the desert sky. Where do I go from here?
Countless people have asked me, “So why’d you move to Arizona?” or some variation of that question. I’ve answered differently depending on the circumstances, but I usually go with, “Well, I’m still in my twenties, I’ve never lived outside of Indiana and it beats shoveling snow in the winter.” All of which is true (for me, at least). Sometimes I talk about a moment I shared with my ’95 Buick Century back in Indianapolis in February 2015. It was just after sunrise, about 7:45 a.m., and Cronus (the Buick) is idling unhappily. I’m stepping back into the driver’s side after scraping frost from the windows and when I reach to turn the wiper switch, the blades utter an audible moan, perhaps a cry of defeat, before a pop and then silence and the grumble of the engine continue. In that instance, I laughed.
So at least the weather is nice. I’ll take haboobs and monsoons over blizzards and tornadoes any day of the week. As for the heat, it’s not so bad in the shade. Or if you pretend you live in a steamless sauna. But what about the people? What about how I live life?
I’m still figuring that out. There’s an air of elitism in and around the Scottsdale area, and I’m not here to condemn or complain about income inequality or the virulence of greed—it just makes me mindful of how I interact with and treat people on a daily basis. If an older customer at the grocery store is struggling with a heavy item, I offer assistance. If a driver insists on merging without signaling, everything is in its right place. Because in the end, we’re—human beings, Homo sapiens sapiens—all meatbags with physical features and accessories. I acknowledge the risk of sounding like an after-school special, but none of that matters when at the end of the day, you recall how people treat you. So why not make the effort of kindness?
It took a long time to put these thoughts into words, let alone coherent thoughts. Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive, especially my family, because without you I could not have gotten this far. Still, so for we’ve yet to go. For the future: more writing, more exploring, and more love. I must hold myself accountable to not let hate get the better of me, and lift my friends up as they lift me up when the time comes.